By Ben Payner
Turnover can be the bane of an athletic program’s existence when senior players graduate. But this is not the case for this year’s men’s basketball team ﾗ last year’s roster had no seniors, meaning that Kenyon returns all members of a squad that reached the semifinals of the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament last year.
The Lords tipped off their 2013-2014 season at the Case Western Reserve [University] Stephanie Tubbs Jones Memorial Tournament last weekend.Although the Lords fell to Case in overtime of the finals, the season’s outlook is definitely a positive one. The Lords averaged 91 points per game over the two games on 50 percent shooting.
In the first game against Otterbein University, Jonathan Amador ’15 hit two quick three-pointers and gave the Lords a lead they never relinquished, cruising to a 93-73 victory. Amador paced the Lords from deep, connecting on a staggering 50 percent (6-12) in three-pointer territory on his way to a career-high 25-point performance.
In addition to Amador’s strong play, Ikenna Nwadibia ’14 poured in 28 points on an efficient 11-18 shooting from the field, including one three-pointer and 5-7 from the free-throw line. Nwadibia collected his first double-double of the season with his 10 rebounds. Battling some injury issues in the offseason, Nwadibia is one of the clear leaders for the Lords, and it was encouraging to see him get off to such a hot start.
Brian Lebowitz ’14, another veteran leader, chipped in 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. As a team, the Lords shot 50.7 percent from the field while their stingy defense limited Otterbein to 35.8 percent (24-67) shooting.
The championship game pitted the best two teams in the tournament against each other, as the Lords took on host Case Western. From the stands, 292 fans watched as the Lords took a two-point lead into halftime. In the second half, though, Case took the lead to nine with 10 minutes to play. Two three-pointers by Amador and strong guard play from Julian Pavlin ’14 and Cooper Handelsman ’15 prevented the lead from getting any bigger. Though with little more than three minutes to play and still a seven-point game, Nwadibia took over. He single-handedly outscored Case 10-3 over the final 3:24 and helped the Lords force overtime. Overall, Nwadibia notched his second double-double of the season with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
In overtime, both teams stayed pretty even, with Case going up by one with 19 seconds to play. After the ball was brought down the court, Head Coach Dan Priest, not seeing anything he liked, called a timeout with six seconds remaining in the game. Priest drew up a play that took advantage of the fact that Case would be focusing on stopping Nwadibia, Amador and Pavlin. On the inbounds play, Lebowitz slipped a screen and got a good look at the basket from about six feet out, but was unable to convert. Case sealed the win with two free throws, which is where the difference stemmed from: the Lords went 19-33 from the charity stripe while Case went 25-32.
The team seemed to be in relatively good spirits despite the tough loss.
“We played hard against two tough teams this weekend,” Pavlin said. “We fought our way back against Case Western but weren’t able to close it out. At this point in the season, we are trying to discover our team identity. We are a confident group and we know what it takes to win games, so we look forward to the challenge.”
The Lords played their first conference game of the season last night against Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, losing 60-78. Their next game is at home this Saturday, Nov. 23 against Muskingum University at 4 p.m.
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